American Cup 2019: Men's competition breakdown

Sam Mikulak will try to spoil Yul Moldauer’s potential three-peat at the American Cup Saturday in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Sam Mikulak will try to spoil Yul Moldauer’s potential three-peat at the American Cup Saturday in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Occasionally an Oleg Verniaiev or a Ryohei Kato or a Fabian Hambuechen pops in to take the crown, but for the better part of 20 years, the American Cup has been dominated by American men.

Will history repeat itself this year? Maybe not. Bolstered by out-of-this-world difficulty on floor, 2017 World all-around bronze medalist Kenzo Shirai of Japan, along with 2018 American Cup runner up James Hall, a silent assassin from Great Britain, pose a viable threat to Sam Mikulak and Yul Moldauer for this year’s American Cup title.

Make no mistake, the American men are strong. With two Olympics under his belt and several top five finishes at last fall’s Doha World Championships, Mikulak proved he’s just entering his zenith, and he competes especially well inside the country. That being said, the 26-year-old flashed a fair amount of his old inconsistency at Winter Cup two weeks ago in finishing second to Moldauer, who coasted to the title.

Moldauer comes in as the two-time defending American Cup champ and the first guy to potentially three-peat it since Blaine Wilson did it from 1997-99. Moldauer is a deeply talented competitor who doesn’t wilt in the spotlight, but he trails Mikulak in difficulty on pommel horse, parallel bars and high bar.

At last year’s world championships, Moldauer’s total difficulty score was in the low 32s, and he remains competitive because his execution is way above average when he’s on his game. Mikulak, meanwhile, was up around 35 for combined difficulty. Shirai, who nonetheless finished seventh below Mikulak’s fifth, carries around a whopping 35.9, the highest potential difficulty in this year’s American Cup field, and about seven points of that comes from floor alone. Hall carries in a respectable 34.5, priming him to play spoiler.

Ukraine’s Petro Pakhniuk, the Netherlands’s Bart Deurloo, China’s 2014 Youth Olympian Ma Yue and Switzerland’s Christian Baumann will all also be jostling for place. (Marcel Nguyen, originally scheduled to be there for Germany, dropped out a couple days ago.)

Shirai’s incredible difficulty on floor and vault ups his stock as an all-arounder, but execution-wise, the charismatic 22-year-old is weaker than average on rings and pommel horse. Pakhnuik, meanwhile is exceptionally good on pommel horse and parallel bars, and showed it in his bronze medal finish at last year’s cup. Ma is something of a question mark, though he does have a world cup title on rings under his belt.

Bottom line: if Mikulak does what he’s capable of, he’ll win his second American Cup title. But if he does something to take himself out of contention, the title is likely to be a fight between Moldauer, Shirai and Hall.

Skill watch: The Van Wicklen?

Colin Van Wicklen wasn’t fazed by competing at the World Championships in Doha with nary a world cup -- or any other international competition -- under his belt. “I’m 100 percent ready for this,” the American said last fall. “This is the perfect way for me to make a name for myself on the international stage.”

Doing well at your first ever international competition, especially when it happens to be a world championship, is one way to get your name out there. The other, of course, is to invent a skill. (That way your name isn’t just out there, it’s in the code of points forever.) Having accomplished the one, seems Van Wicklen is readying to do the other.

Behold, the double front pike full out, which, if submitted and competed successfully by him at just about any world cup event this year, could be dubbed the Van Wicklen forevermore. Front double pikes have proven more popular than ever this quad, as have the half-out variety. The double front pike is an E skill in the men’s code of points, worth 0.5 when performed correctly. The half out is an F, worth 0.6, so it follows that the full out would likely be classed as a G skill, worth 0.7.

Only two skills worth more on men’s floor exercise: the triple back tuck, named for Valeri Liukin, and the triple twisting double layout, named for Kenzo Shirai. Both are H-level skills, and worth 0.8 to whoever performs them well.

Radivilov, You, Miyachi break through for gold in Melbourne World Cup finals

A satisfied Igor Radivilov (UKR) pumps his fist after clinching gold at the Melbourne World Cup. Photo: Melbourne World Cup.

A satisfied Igor Radivilov (UKR) pumps his fist after clinching gold at the Melbourne World Cup. Photo: Melbourne World Cup.

Highly experienced gymnasts prevailed on the second day of men’s finals at the Melbourne World Cup, with many-time world vault finalist Igor Radivilov of Ukraine taking gold for a wonderful stuck Dragulescu and equally good Tsuk double pike, despite excellent Tsuk triple full and Dragulescu vaults from France’s Loris Frasca, matching Radivilov vault for vault in difficulty score. Great Britain’s Dominick Cunningham drilled a terrific Yurchenko triple full for bronze.

2015 World parallel bars champion You Hao of China scooped up the gold medal and valuable world cup points on his specialty ahead of Turkish specialists Ahmet Onder and Ferhat Arican, while Hidetaka Miyachi, he of the double twisting layout Kovacs on high bar, defeated a pair of world champions in the Netherlands’s Epke Zonderland and China’s Zhang Chenglong to stand atop the podium.

More than medals are at stake in Melbourne -- depending on where they rank in finals, gymnasts also earned valuable world cup points, which go toward their standing in the world cup series, an event that began last November and will conclude in the spring of 2020. The winners of the world cup series on each event, provided they do not help their teams qualify to the Games at this year’s World Championships, will earn berths to the Tokyo Olympics.

Results

Men’s Vault

1. Igor Radivilov, Ukraine, 14.949
2. Loris Frasca, France, 14.900
3. Dominick Cunningham, Great Britain, 14.749
4. Hidenobu Yonekura, Japan, 14.579
5. Shin Jea-hwan, South Korea, 14.566
6. Christopher Remkes, Australia, 14.083
7. Kim Han-sol, South Korea, 13.999
8. Milad Karimi, Kazakhstan, 13.583

Parallel Bars

1. You Hao, China, 15.066
2. Ahmet Onder, Turkey, 14.633
3. Ferhat Arican, Turkey, 14.366
4. Mitchell Morgans, Australia, 14.200
5. Hibiki Arayashiki, Japan, 14.066
6. Mikhail Koudinov, New Zealand, 12.933
7. Akim Mussayev, Kazakhstan, 12.266
8. Tomomasa Hasegawa, Japan, 11.466

High Bar

1. Hidetaka Miyachi, Japan, 14.733
2. Epke Zonderland, Netherlands, 14.733
3. Zhang Chenglong, China, 14.333
4. Mitchell Morgans, Australia, 14.033
5. Tyson Bull, Australia, 13.966
6. Ahmet Önder, Turkey, 13.900
7. Tin Srbic, Croatia, 13.266
8. Milad Karimi, Kazakhstan, 12.200

Yang, Lee and Yulo victorious as Melbourne World Cup finals begin

Lee Chih-Kai (TPE) won the men’s pommel horse title in Melbourne. Photo: World Cup Melbourne.

Lee Chih-Kai (TPE) won the men’s pommel horse title in Melbourne. Photo: World Cup Melbourne.

Southeast Asian gymnasts carried the day on the first day of finals at the Melbourne World Cup, with world medalists from three different nations coming away with the top prizes.

2014 world rings champion Liu Yang turned in an excellent routine on his best event to play out the same scenario with teammate You Hao, with only 0.033 separating gold and silver, while 2012 Olympic rings champion Arthur Zanetti of Brazil defeated a host of strongmen, including qualification leader Igor Radivilov of Ukraine, for bronze.

Chinese Taipei’s Chih-Kai Lee proved the class of the field on pommel horse, flairing his way to gold over China’s Weng Hao and Japanese specialist Tomagasa Hasegawa. All three posted routines with 6.5 difficulty score, but Lee’s execution carried the day, albeit barely -- like on rings, the difference between first and second was a mere 0.033.

A fall from qualification leader Ahmet Onder of Turkey on his full-in final pass opened up the men’s field for world bronze medalist Carlos Yulo of the Philippines, who stepped up to win his first ever world cup title (running double front pike half out, 2.5 to Randi, 3.5 to front half, double full, front full to front double full, triple twist), with newcomer Hibiki Arayashiki of Japan using many of the same passes in a silver medal effort.

Results

Men’s floor

1. Carlos Edriel Yulo, Philippines, 14.566
2. Hibiki Arayashiki, Japan, 14.500
3. Rayderley Zapata, Spain, 14.500
3. Dominick Cunningham, Great Britain, 14.500
5. Kim Han-sol, South Korea, 14.200
6. Casimir Schmidt, Netherlands, 13.833
7. Christopher Remkes, Australia, 13.733
8. Ahmet Önder, Turkey, 13.166

Pommel horse

1. Lee Chih-Kai, Chinese Taipei, 15.266
2. Weng Hao, China, 15.233
3. Tomomasa Hasegawa, Japan, 14.666
4. Thierry Pellerin, Canada, 13.700
5. Ferhat Arican, Turkey, 13.133
6. Bram Louwije, Netherlands, 12.766
7. Akim Mussayev, Kazakhstan, 12.700
8. Cyril Tommasone, France, 12.033

Still rings

1. Liu Yang, China, 15.166
2. You Hao, China, 15.133
3. Arthur Zanetti, Brazil, 14.966
4. Kazuya Takahashi, Japan, 14.600
5. Courtney Tulloch, Great Britain, 14.600
6. Igor Radivilov, Ukraine, 14.566
7. Ali Zahran, Egypt, 14.400
8. Ryan Oehrlein, Canada, 14.000

Moldauer tops Mikulak at Winter Cup

Yul.jpg

As is often the case, the U.S. men spent first night of the Winter Cup Challenge shaking off rust. Most of the national team collective and assorted hopefuls are gathered in Las Vegas for the first of two nights of competition. Night one determines the all-around champion and the first six to make the national team, but one day in, only Yul Moldauer looked near his 2018 Worlds form as he cruised to the title. Five-time U.S. champion Sam Mikulak, who will headline the American Cup with Moldauer in two weeks, had a mixed bag of an evening: brilliant on high bar, strong on floor, off on pommel horse and parallel bars. Below, the blow-by-blow.

Rotation 1:

Colin Van Wicklen, floor: Front double pike half out, small hop. Punch 2/1 to tucked front full. 2.5 to front half to his hands and knees, too low. Double full side pass, hop back. 1.5 to front layout full. Stuck Arabian double front to end. Too bad about the fall. 13.1.

Kiwan Watts, vault: Sits Tsuk 2.5. Is his coach wearing a neck brace? 13.2.

Adrian de los Angeles, pommel: Form on one circle but regains control then falls and spins on his back off the horse. 13.3.

Yul Moldauer, floor: Stream doesn’t show first pass. 2.5 to Rudi. Arabian double front half out, stuck. Beautiful flairs, through the handstand twice. Double full side pass. Triple full to end, not quite enough juice, low and puts hands down. Not quite in full routine shape maybe. 13.55.

Marvin Kimble, rings: If not spectacular, not bad either. A little high on his final planche. Full twisting double layout, small hop, nearly stuck. 13.95.

Emyre Cole, parallel bars: Lovely front straddle then sits on the bars on what was supposed to be  press handstand. Double front dismount, underrotated and sits that too. 11.1.

Sean Melton, rings: Melton looks in very good shape -- longer lines than earlier in his career. Great positions too. Double double tuck, both twists on the second flip, nearly stuck. Great set. 14.45.

Genki Suzuki, floor: Front double full to front half. Double double tuck, big bounce back. Rudi side pass, big steps forward. Oklahoma looks a little tired so far here, which is bad given that we’ve just begun. Double full. 1.5 to front layout full. 2.5 to end. 13.4.

Ryan McVay, high bar: Yamawaki, hop full. Hop 1.5.Endos. Plenty of giants between his elements. Stalder. Stuck double double layout. Dismount the highlight of this set. 12.85.

Sam Mikulak, pommel horse: His own move to get things started, gets through the Busnari that gave him problems in Dpha and then calms down a lot. Cruises until almost the very end and then comes off on...well, on a circle, essentially. Sam laughs it off ruefully as he goes back to the chalk bucket, takes his 30 seconds and gets up and does his handstand pirouette dismount. Welp. 13.7.

Ian Gunther (Stanford), high bar: Tkatchev straight, straddle Tkatchev. Straddle half Tkatchev. Endos, stops mid-sequence. Full twisting double layout, hands down. 11.15.

Evan Davis, floor: Hands down on triple full dismount. 12.85.

Akash Modi, high bar: Yama with some form, Straddle Tkatchev to immediate layout Tkatchev, straddle tkatchev half. Pike Tkatchev half. Jam to Endo. Stuck layout double double. An admirable routine, but his toepoint and general form leaves room for improvement. 13.65.

Vitaliy Guimaraes, floor: HUGE double double tuck to open, beautiful. Whip half to front fouble full, also gorgeous. HIgh Arabian double front half out. 1.5 to front layout half. FIghting for every tenth. Gorgeous lines, too. And toepoint! Rudi, a little low, but whatever. Triple full dismount. Best routine we’ve seen so far. 13.75.

Rotation two:

Yul Moldauer, pommel horse: A more flaired out routine than we’ve seen from Yul in the past, flairs being the thing on horse now thanks to Lee Chih-Kai and others. NIce set overall, no falls, no big errors. 14.1.

Marvin Kimble, vault: Nearly walks into an amazing Tsuk double pike, huge, but then can’t hold the landing, takes several steps back and rolls out of it. Is that his cry of frustration or of his teammates’? Hard to tell, would be understandable if either. 13.85.

Sean Melton, vault: Handspring double front, close to stuck. Nice! 14.45.

Alexei Vernyi, pbars: Some labored back tosses, labored press handstand after it. Double pike with a small hop. 12.4.

Jacob Moore, high bar: Terrific double double layout, stuck, to finish. Jacob looks elated with that routine. 12.1.

Bailey Perez, floor: Whip half to front double, nice. Front full to double front. 2.5 to punch front. Arabian double front half out. Double full. Triple full to end. Nice set. 13.05.

Kyte Crigger, high bar: One armed giant, Tak half (angle), nice full twisting double layout, stuck. 13.0.

Sam Mikulak, rings: Maltese to cross, planche, tucked Yamawaki to cross, Piked Yamawaki. Sal break in handstand for 0.25 seconds. Giant. GIant to easy looking double double tuck. 14.05.

Ryan McVay, floor: Double front. Front full to front layout. Double full. Layout side pass. 2.5 to end. 13.15.

Shaun Herzog, parallel bars: GIant Diamadov to giant, straddle cut, Dalton, Stutz. Terrific double pike. Very nice routine! 13.45.

Adrian de los Angeles, rings: A nice, well-controlled routine, but none too difficult. No Malteses, no crosses. FUll twisting double layout dismount, bends knees toward the end. WIll be a low D and fairly good E. 13.05 (4.5 D, 8.55 E).

Colin van Wicklen, pommel horse: Circles on one pommel, half Russian, travel, runs out of gas before the dismount and comes off as he presses up. Just not enough in the tank. 11.95.

Ian Gunther, floor: Double tuck. Rudi. Lovely flairs sequence. Excellent toepoint. 1.5 to front layout. 2.5, a little wild on the landing, shuffle to the side. 12.85.

What has Yin Alvarez done to his hair? Is that a cap, or...

Johnny Jacobson, high bar: Kolman. Layout Tkatchev. Straddle Tkatchev half. STadler Endo. Stalder. One armed giant. Stuck full twisting double layout. Very nice. 13.4.

Akash Modi, floor: Crashes 2.5 to front half midway through his routine. Grinds around the triple full to end. Looks rather put out, though everyone is making the same errors so far. 12.6.

Grant Breckenridge, floor: Front layout full to front double full, hops out of bounds. Arabian double front, saves it with hops back. Whip to 1.5 to front layout. 2.5 gets the best of him in the end, and he sits down. End of rotation. 12.05.

Rotation 3:  

Marvin Kimble, parallel bars: Wonderful line for this event but comes off early on an English handstand and we cut away to see Donnell Whittenburg vault. Back later: New dismount for him: front layout 1.5. That looks like a placeholder dismount -- he’s certainly capable of more. 12.0.

Donnell Whittenburg, vault: Tsuk 2.5 with big steps forward. 13.35.

Eddie Penev, vault: Lovely Shewfelt (YUrchenko 2.5) to terrific landing. Eddie is thrilled! 14.8.

Sean Melton, parallel bars: Inside Diamadov. Diamadov, right on. Stutz. Double pike. Again, very methodical, great control. 13.05.

Kyle King, vault: Tsuk 2.5, very good landing. HIgh fives the coach. 14.5.

Sam Mikulak, vault: Tsuk 2.5 with a small hop back/to the side. 13.75.

Anton Stephenson, bault: Shewfelt with a step back. 14.4.

Shane Wiskus, high bar: Kolman. Tucked Kovacs. One armed giant. Tak half. Stalder. DOuble double layout, small hop forward. 13.0.

Vitaliy Guimaraes, rings: Planche to begin. PIke Yama to tucked Yama. His long body is striking on this event -- pencil correct handstands. Double double tuck, with a small hop. He plays to his strengths (swing elements), and who came blame him? 13.25.

Kevin Penev, floor: Arabian double front half out. Wide arm planche, unique and cool. Double full side pass, is sure to click his heels together. Triple full to end. Very nice set. 13.55.

Colin van Wicklen, rings: Iron cross, planche. No shortage of upper body strength with this one. Very energetic pull to handstand there. The typical Yama series. Giant to stuck 1.5 twisting double back. Very nice! 13.95.

Akash Modi, pommel horse: Akash attacks! No hesitation in this routine. Loses it just before the dismount though. Frustrating for him. 13.0.

Yul Moldauer, rings: Yama series to iron cross. Planche. Slight break in handstand after. Nice double double tuck dismount though, small hop. 14.5.

Riley Loos, pommel horse: Nice routine. Was that a fist pump in the handstand on the dismount there? That’s original. 13.2.

Kiwan Watts, high bar: Kovacs. Nice Endos. Lovely line. Stuck full twisting double layout. Pleasing to the eye, this routine. 13.25.

Jacob Moore, floor: Double double tuck. 2.5 to front layout half. Arabian double front half out. Great form from this guy. Double full. Triple full, stuck. Not much wrong with that routine.  

Rotation 4:

Genki Suzuki, vault: Tsuk double full. 14.15.

Sean Melton, high bar: Kovacs. Kolman. Hop full. Tak half. Stalder. Stuck full twisting double layout. 13.35.

Bennet Huang, vault: Tsuk double full. 13.75.

Allan Bower, vault: Handspring front double full. Okay, there are some leg issues in the air but a harder vault than many of the guys are doing here. 14.05.

Donnell Whittenburg, parallel bars: Had a great routine going and lost it on a Diamadov. Too bad! Big hop on double front half out. He’s got tons of potential, but Whittenburg looks like he’s still finding his touch so far this year. 13.55.

Colin van Wicklen, vault: Huge Dragulescu. 15.0, top score so far.

Yul Moldauer, vault: Tsuk 2.5, landed lightly with a hop. 14.45.

Ian Gunther, rings: Yamawakis to planche, a bit different. Apparently to go to Stanford your toepoint has to be in the 90th percentile or above. Full twisting double layout, hop back. 13.7.

Eddie Penev, parallel bars: One of the more embarrassing misses of the evening -- wanted to do a clear hip circle and misses entirely. Oops. Then turns around and delivers a beautiful set save for the big hop forward on his double pike dismount. Bad beginning, lovely interior, less than stellar end. 12.0.

Akash Modi, rings: Like his cousin 2008 Olympian Raj Bhavsar, rings is one of the places where Modi really shines. Great set, makes it look easy, stuck double double tuck dismount, the works. 14.05.

Marvin Kimble, high bar: Liukin, great, but struggles on the giant after. Layout Tkatchev. Layout Tkatchev half. Tak full. Tak half. Tkatchev. Goes for a second one and comes off. Plenty of people cheering him on after this. Was a great set before the fall. 10.8.

Sam Mikulak, parallel bars: Front flip, nearly falls on inside Diamadov and then does fall on his next skill. The rest of the routine looks like Sam Mikulak. Even if he wins this, falls on pommel horse and p-bars are not going to burnish his reputation for consistency. Double front half out dismount, lands low, hands down. Oof. 12.85.

Anton Stephenson, parallel bars: The Nebraska gymnast does the routine that Sam Mikulak had been hoping to do just before him. Punctuated with stuck double pike. Terrific stuff. 13.65.

Adrian de los Angeles, parallel bars: Excellent routine save for the big step after his double front dismount. 14.15.

Kanji Oyama, parallel bars: Inside Diamadov, comes off one second skill. “Ah man!” he exclaims as he heads toward the chalk bowl. Hard routine for him. Usually it’s pommel horse that’s so unkind. 10.55.

Rotation 5:

WIll Jeffreys, floor: Double double tuck.  2.5 to front tuck full. Double full side pass. Front double full. 12.8.

Eddie Penev, high bar: Tak half, well below necessary angle. Stalder Tkatchev. Stalder 1.5. Stalder full. Tkatchev. Hop full. Stalder. Full twisting double layout. 12.45.

Allan Bower, parallel bars: Another hit set from the very reliable Bower, who has had a much better evening here than some others. Hangs onto the double pike dismount with a couple of arm circles. 13.4.

Akash Modi, vault: Tsuk 2.5 with a hop forward. Huge air for someone so small. 14.35.

Kyle King, high bar: Yama. One armed giant. Tak half. Kovacs with fingertip catch. Tkatchev. Etc. Full twisting double layout. 13.05.

Sam Mikulak, high bar: Cassina. Kolman. Layout Tkatchev. Tkatchev to Tkatchev half, nice. Excellent tak half. Stalder. Stuck double double layout. Looking like the world bronze medalist he is on this event. 15.1 is the new high score of the night.

Colin van Wicklen, parallel bars: Front flip. Almost comes off on peach half (upper body strength for the win again). Gienger (small bend in handstand after). Double front, stuck. 13.25.   

Marvin Kimble, floor: Front double pike, big steps back. Front double full to front full, out of bounds. Double layout, OOB again. 11.95.

Yul Moldauer, parallel bars: Lovely work all the way through. Sticks his double front half out. One of the best routines of the night. 14.45.

Sean Melton, floor: Double double tuck. Double front half out, hands down, quite an awkward fall. Front double full. 2.5 to front layout half. 12.95.

Donnell Whittenburg, high bar: Tak half. Hop full. Layout Tkatchev. Tak full. Yama with half twist. Stalder. Double double layout, remembers at the last second to bend his knees and sticks the landing. A routine worthy of Whittenburg. He celebrates! 13.0.

Rotation 6:

Allan Bower, high bar: Yamawaki. One armed giant. Tak full. Kovacs. Tkatchev. Tak to Endo. Stalder. Full twisting double layout, stuck. Not the flashiest of routines, but gets the job done.

Cameron Bock, vault: Tsuk 2.5. Looks like he nearly sits it down but really just lands in a very deep squat.

Kyle King, floor: Double double tuck. 1.5 to front layout full. 2.5 to front half. Arabian double front half out.

Jacob Moore, vault: Tsuk double full.

Sam Mikulak, floor: Double front pike. 2.5 to double front. Front double full to front tuck full. Flairs, up through handstand twice. 1.5 to front full. Stuck triple full. A couple of hops where there won’t be later on in the season, but a decided hit for Sam to end this first night in Vegas.

Marvin Kimble, pommel horse: Superb set. Keep his composure on one-pommel sequence that could have gone wrong but didn’t. Then he, like so many others tonight, loses it just before his dismount. Marvin can’t believe it.

Yul Moldauer, high bar: Kovacs. Hop 1.5. Triple twisting double back. Spins like a top in the air. Great landing. Yul competed that as a kid but has only recently put it back in his routine.

Riley Loos, parallel bars: Falls swinging into the center. Still, a kid with a future. Was in fifth place heading into this final rotation, which is already an achievement.

Kanji Oyama, floor: Falls on first and second passes. Oops.

Shane Wiskus, rings: Falls out of handstand late in the routine. 1.5 twisting double tuck to end.

Donnell Whittenburg, floor: Double double layout. 2.5 to front layout full. Triple full. Russians. Rudi. Double double tuck. Arabian double front half out. Formidable way for him to end. There’s something still a bit uncut about this routine, which lacks a bit of polish. But you can’t argue with tumbling passes like those. As ever, Whittenburg is full of potential.

Bailey Perez, parallel bars: Clear hip mount. Diamadov. Gienger. Unique hecht half turn back tuck dismount, the same used by John Roethlisberger years ago.   

Standings after night one:

  1. Yul Moldauer, 84.5

  2. Sam Mikulak, 84.45

  3. Allan Bower, 82.35

  4. Genki Suzuki, 82.3

  5. Robert Neff, 81.8

  6. Sean Melton, 81.75

  7. Akash Modi, 81.5

  8. Colin van Wicklen, 81.1

Full results: USA Gymnastics